Brilliant Viola breathe life into Serie A title race

Roma's 1-0 win over Udinese earlier in the day cut Juve's lead to a single point and it rarely looked like providing a response, as Paulo Sousa's men dominated for much of the match and deservedly secured a rare victory over their fierce foes.

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Fiorentina players celebrate behind Giorgio Chiellini

Fiorentina breathed life into the Serie A title race by producing a commanding performance to beat bitter rival and pacesetter Juventus 2-1 on Sunday.

Roma's 1-0 win over Udinese earlier in the day cut Juve's lead to a single point and it rarely looked like providing a response, as Paulo Sousa's men dominated for much of the match and deservedly secured a rare victory over their fierce foes.

Juve was guilty of a particularly limp showing in the first half, as Fiorentina took control with an intense display and carved open numerous chances. Nikola Kalinic eventually gave the home side the lead with his ninth league goal of the season, late on in an opening period that offered Juve few reasons to be positive.

Fiorentina deservedly doubled its advantage in the 54th minute through Milan Badelj's fluke effort, but Gonzalo Higuain swiftly pulled one back with his sixth Serie A goal in four outings.

Juve, which still has a game in hand on its title rivals, piled the pressure on towards the end as things got desperate, but Fiorentina was ultimately good value for the triumph.

Leonardo Bonucci's pre-match snipe suggesting this was Fiorentina's "game of the year", but only a "stepping stone" on Juve's path to glory seemed to be given credence by the host's start, as it attacked with brilliant ferocity.

Matias Vecino was particularly threatening, forcing Gianluigi Buffon into a strong save seven minutes in after latching on to a loose ball on the edge of the area.

The Uruguayan went even closer a few minutes later, darting into the left side of the area to offer support to Kalinic and eventually slamming a left-footed effort on to the post. Fiorentina finally made the most of its superiority eight minutes before the break – Kalinic beating Buffon from a tight angle after being fed into the box by Filippo Bernardeschi.

Juve almost levelled on the stroke of half-time, but Maxi Olivera crucially blocked Higuain's goal-bound effort to preserve the host's lead.

Fiorentina remained in the ascendancy early in the second period and should have scored a second four minutes after the restart, but Kalinic delayed his finish after racing on to Bernardeschi's incisive pass and Buffon made an important block.

Buffon was beaten a few moments later, though, as Badelj's half-volleyed pass from deep sailed all the way through without a touch from anyone else and found the bottom-right corner.

Juve gave itself a lifeline just before the hour mark. Higuain stabbed home from close range after Sami Khedira's cross struck Stefano Sturaro and dropped kindly for the Argentinian.

Fiorentina generally did a good job of keeping Juve at arm's length thereafter, but had two lucky escapes in the final 10 minutes. Ciprian Tatarusanu closed his legs just in time to keep a Higuain header out and, in the ensuing scramble, Giorgio Chiellini saw his effort kept out by the goalkeeper.

Paulo Dybala then blazed over after darting into the box with two minutes to go, letting Fiorentina off the hook.

Key Opta stats: 

- Juventus conceded 17 shots against Fiorentina, the worst tally for the club in Serie A this season.
- Fiorentina has now scored nine goals from outside box in this Serie A, no team has scored more in this league.
- Higuain has scored six goals in his last four league appearances after he had scored only one in the previous eight. He has also found the net in each of his last four Serie A meetings with Fiorentina.
- Leonardo Bonucci made his 250th Serie A appearance.

 

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